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Mars rover Curiosity gets software update, 'brain transplant'

August 13, 2012 |  3:37 am

It was something of a chill weekend for Mars rover Curiosity and the NASA scientists leading the mission on the Red Planet.

NASA said the rover is going through a four-day "brain transplant." During this time, engineers are  updating Curiosity's software, currently primed for its flight stage, to prepare it for its operations on the surface of Mars. The update will add two crucial functions -- the ability to use the geochemistry lab's sampling system, and to drive.

The update had to wait until after the rover landed because its processor, built years ago to withstand the harsh environment of interplanetary space, is limited compared with today's consumer technology, said senior software engineer Ben Cichy.

"My phone has a processor that is 10 times as fast as the processor that's on Curiosity and has 16 times as much storage as Curiosity has," Cichy said. "And my phone doesn't have to land anything on Mars."

As the rover goes under the digital knife, many scientists will be taking a break and getting used to their newfound fame.

 

"I got recognized in a pizza parlor on Wednesday," said systems engineer Allen Chen, who emceed the rover's landing on Aug. 5. "That was a little weird for me."

Also Friday, engineers offered their most detailed assessment of Curiosity's landing. The craft, they said, landed about 1.5 miles away from its predicted touchdown zone -- not bad, given that the site was more than 150 million miles away and that the projected landing zone was an ellipse 12 miles wide.

ALSO:

Curiosity's mysterious Mars photo stirs speculation

NASA's 'Mohawk guy' becomes face of Mars mission

NASA drivers await chance to operate biggest, baddest Mars rover

-- Amina Khan

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